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Native American--------------------------------------------------

Designs that incorporate or pay homage to particular tribes or Native Americans as a whole. These symbols listed below kind of brush the surface of what is out there.

Beadbands: The beadband is a very popular design. A combination of beads, medallions, feathers, and leather straps form an armband or anklet. This is typically meant as an homage to the culture as a whole and bears no other meaning. Different tribes did use different patterns though and this is something that could be incorporated into the design.

Bullskull: These are used during many different rituals and painted many different ways. As tattoos they are typically done without paint and with feathers hanging from the horns. I greatly recommend researching any painted skulls before getting them tattooed.

Dream Catcher: Seen by most as a good luck charm and are meant to bring good dreams as well as hopefully being able to fulfill those dreams. The bad dreams are supposed to become caught in the webbing and the good dreams are allowed to travel to the dreamer.

Feathers: Feathers are used as decoration as well as a means to communicate information. Feathers will have different markings to signify those meanings. Usually we see feathers marked with spots for kills but I am sure that this would vary from tribe to tribe as well as feathers from different birds having alternate meanings.

Haida: These Native Americans create artwork that looks like flat versions of their totems. Very intricate in nature but simple in color these are very striking designs.

Inuit: These North American natives would be known to most of us as Eskimos. They are an amazing people that have lived in harsh conditions for many, many years. A very interesting aspect of tattooing tradition within this tribe is that only the women did the tattooing. The women did all of the sewing and their tattoos are actually sewn into the skin rather than poked or hammered as in many other cultures, so the connection is obvious. There is more information here from Ray Reasoner Jr.

Kokopelli: This flute playing deity of the Hopi represents fertility, both in women and crops.

Last Stand: Shows an Indian riding a horse on the top of a hill with a spear either through the body or being carried (depending on interpretation). Not falling, head dropped but not giving up, making the last stand. This design is meant to portray the courage of Native Americans.

Totems: Sometimes people will get their totem animal tattooed on them. Other times they will get a totem pole of their family tattooed.

Following Haida totems information taken from Totem Poles: An Exploration by Pat Kramer

please visit their site for more information on totems, totem poles and consider buying the book.

Bears: Bears live in their own villages in the forests and are able to make fires with wet sticks. They can easily transform into human form though as such, they have a lumbering gait and wear thick bearskin coats. Animal or human, they must not be insulted or cursed. Male Bears are caring creatures with a yen to marry human princesses. Bear Mothers have twin children who grow to adulthood in record time.

Beavers: Vengeful creatures, Beavers occasionally murder humans. If provoked, they dig underground tunnels that undermine villages and cause earthquakes and landslides. With their fine front teeth, they not only build dens, they make fine arrows. Beavers were at War with humans for a long time (the beaver pelt trade of the 1800s).
See this Beaver's long front teeth and tail folded up in front.

Eagles: Aristocratic lord of the Sky Realm, Eagles are part of Thunderbird's entourage. They live with other lordly Eagles in the sky kingdom, often getting into wars. Occasionally, they transform into a human dancer and attend dance ceremonies.

Frog: Much misunderstood and underestimated, Frog is associated with the bringing of great fortune or even wealth. It can survive bursting out of its skin, being buried in the lava of volcanic eruptions and being buried. It must not be insulted as it is a great friend of Copper Woman who lives in the Undersea realm. If insulted, it tattles to her and she causes volcanic eruptions.

Kolus: Thunderbird's blockheaded brother, Kolus, sometimes pretends he's Thunderbird himself. Always trying to prove himself he sometimes flies too close to the sun and that's why his feather tips are burned black. He eats Mosquitoes and sometimes helps humans lift the heavy roof beam of their longhouses into place.

Octopus: We know this creature as an Octopus, but on Alaskan totems its usually called a Devilfish. It could grab a man with its tentacles and hold them underwater 'til they drowned. They were attracted to the color red.

Raven: Powerful, ever-transforming trickster Raven has over 90 stories told about him. Ever hungry, deviant, compulsive, crooked, corrupt and deceptive, he still manages to be likable Though he is often in big trouble. he is usually able to trick his way out of it. Ever politically incorrect, it's not a good idea to speak disrespectfully in front of him or those who use him as their symbol. Never underestimate Raven's power. Among his many clever forms, he can transform into is a fearsome cannibalistic creature called Hok Hok who can pluck your eyes out.

Siskiutl: (pronounced SISK-you-ul), also Sisiutl, is a two-headed sea serpent who can turn enemy warriors into stone with one glance. It's been known to swiftly pull huge war canoes to the site of a battle, Wearing its symbol protects those who wear it from injury during war. This creature has removable sharp crystal eyes and cutting spines. It hates Thunderbirds, but loves blood and cuts. Probably modeled on the huge sturgeon that live in these parts, it's prickly reputation may come from the young sturgeon's sharp razor spines.

Thunderbird: Grand lord of the Sky Realm. Thunderbird can make himself invisible and appear as a great wind. Groups of Thunderbirds are often busy with their own Wars carried out in the sky realm beyond human perception. When there are battles, humans can hear thunder and see lightning in the sky. Occasionally one of these grand creatures will come to human ceremony dressed as a great eagle chief.

Whales: Rulers of their own underwater city, Whales, also known as Blackfish, live with other royal underwater beings like Copper Woman and Komogwa, the underwater sea king. Whales hate Thunderbirds because Thunderbirds can scoop Whales right out of the water and eat them. Some Whales get tired of ocean life, scrap off their skin, and turn into Wolves. In this form, they continue to hunt on land in killer-packs. A Whale that has transformed halfway is called a Sea Wolf.
All Whales in B.C. are pictured head down (to symbolize defeat) because an Alaskan tribe once defeated the Nass tribes and demanded to exclusively use the Whale symbol. Alaskan carvers carve Whale hear up or head down as they please. And B.C. carvers have found a way to use the figure again. Find the eye and teeth, the dorsal fin. The tail doesn't show in this photo. But this Whale's blow hole is in its dorsal fin. Fun!

Wild Woman: (known by various names) owns certain valuable treasures that humans love to get their hands on. But, thief that she is, she's the one who usually steals fish and treasures from humans. Her fancy name is pronounced SO-no-kwa (Tsonoqua) or Dah-ZUN-kwa (Dzunkwa). This creature lives on the Earth Realm, smells awful, and collects human children to eat. But relax: they usually escape because she is so dull-witted. Left over from the time when cannibals roamed the earth, she cannot be killed-- not permanently. When she is burned up in a fire for her crimes, her ashes fly up into the air and turn into Mosquitos... grey little ash-like creatures, still hungry for blood.
Some say this creature is modeled after the Bigfoot or Sasquatch said to live in this part of the world.

Wolf: Wolf is a solitary creature who is a good drummer, howls at the moon and likes to go to midnight dances. Because of its late night habits, it has made friends with the Ghost People who also like to dance around at night. Wolf is a great healer and knows many secrets. Some human shamans can turn into Wolves and some Wolves turn into shamans.
Wolf and Raven are the two main totem crests in Alaska.


New School:

A style that has evolved over the past thirty years and it involves high color, fatty lines, and usually a crazy topic. It also quite often uses old school designs with a new punch of vibrancy. It is usually a fairly easy style of tattooing to do since normal constraints don't really apply. No topic has to really look exactly like anything, just identifiable as what it is. A lot of lesser skilled tattooists push this style because they can mess up and very few will notice while others like Jesse Smith have taken it to an amazing level by utilizing all of the fundamentals of art to make eye catching images.